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Ron Moore On Why TV Star Trek Is Better Than Movie Star Trek

Ron MooreHaving worked on Star Trek: The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager, not to mention shepherding Syfy’s Battlestar Galactica reboot, it’s safe to say Ron Moore knows a thing or two about televised science fiction, and he knows even more about televised Star Trek. With J.J. Abrams’ Trek movies raking in the box office on the big screen, it seems inevitable that Trek will eventually return to the small one. And in Ron Moore’s opinion, the TV format is where Trek really shines.

Speaking with StarTrek.com, Moore explains why “the features are great,” but Star Trek better lends itself to the format and structure of a TV series.

I think that Star Trek, in its DNA, is a television show. The features are great. They’re a lot of fun and they’ve certainly opened it up to a lot of different audiences, but the features all are basically atypical episodes, if you think about it. The features are very big action-adventure movies, lots of spectacle, run and jump, shoot-em-up and blowing things up. The fate of the Earth, or the universe itself, is always at stake. It’s always about the captain, and one other character has a strong B-story, and everyone else sort of has very small roles beyond that. But Star Trek, as originally conceived, and as you saw play out in all the other series, was really a morality play every week, and it was about an ensemble of players. They were exploring science fiction ideas, sociological ideas and moral ideas. That’s really what the shows are about, and the movies are just pitched in a different way and at a different audience.

The [TV series] will do a story where the captain is split in two by a transporter accident and one half is evil and one half is good, and the whole story is about where does the nature of a man’s strength come from? What makes a man a man? Is it his good side? His bad side? Or how the two come together to make something greater than the sum of its parts? The movies will never do that. They’ll never do a day-in-the-life story with Data [the excellent season 4 episode "Data's Day"] or something like “Lower Decks,” where you go explore the other characters. They’ll never do all the things that all of us who are fans fell in love with this franchise for. So I think, at some point, Star Trek will return to television, and that would be great. I’d love to watch the weekly adventures again just because it gives you an opportunity to explore lots of other things besides the action-adventure component.

The man’s got a point. While there have been some amazing and bombastic action sequences in the Trek series and movies, at its best Roddenberry’s creation has always been about ideas and difficult choices. For the Original Series, Roddenberry enlisted some of the best science fiction writers of that era, including Harlan Ellison and Theodore Sturgeon, and it shows. One of the reasons Abrams’ take on Trek infuriates some long-time fans is because it — so far at least — has leaned heavily on the action and not much on the ideas. I’d love to see that change with Into Darkness, but I’d love even more to see a new Trek TV series, whether set in the original timeline or the new one.

From a business standpoint, it would be very surprising for Paramount to launch a new series set in the classic Trek universe, but you never know. However, I think that a show in the new timeline could still excel at all the things Trek does well. There’s nothing fundamentally broken with the new timeline, it’s just that Abrams and his writers put together a sloppy script. In the right hands, with the right talent, a new Abrams-verse Trek could get back to basics and benefit from the “anything goes” nature of the altered timeline.

Comments

  • http://www.facebook.com/nathan.p.kennedy Nathan Paul Kennedy

    There’s no way they could afford to do a show with the current cast of the movies, but something totally different could be fun. StarFleet Academy, Corps of Engineers or Titan have all played out well in book form but something we haven’t seen is the colonisation of a new planet within the Trek Universe. Star Trek: Colony is my thought!

    • Macranthunter

      What about a show more like Game Of Throne with many Federation Characters and how alliances, ideas and people change history? Would be fun.

      • Sleeper99999

        Not a bad idea but it would clearly need to be less pessimistic and nihilistic than GOT. That series is great but too dark for the TREK universe.

      • http://www.facebook.com/EmperorofMattopia Matthew Hickey

        It was called Deep Space Nine.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jim-Yager/1518049116 Jim Yager

    First off, Ron Moore, aftrer working on Trek, DESTREOYED battlestar, and, not because Starbuck was a woman,. He ruined the world of Battlestar with a short imagination. He worried more about the stories than the enviorment and world that the characters play in. Second, JJ created an awesome version of Star Trek, even my non-trek friends like the new movies. The fact that the characters are just younger versions of the beloved ones fron TOS makes it easier to feel for them. we know where they will go and what they will become, in our world. In the JJ world things are the same, but, different. The only Star Trek that JJ used for his was Enterprise, he even has Scotty mention Archers prize beagle. Star Trek is ripe for a new TV series, but, when, who and where is the question. I feel that the STNG universe has been played out, we had STNG, DS9 and Voyager all in the same ERA, it’s time to change. Go back, go up or move into the world of JJ, where things are not all what they seem. LIVE LONG AND PROSPER

    • Zdeno Czarnowiejski

      Dude, you’re the first person I’ve ever met that said new BSG was messed up. Forget Stabruck. New BSG was so wonderfully trekkiesh. The story is the only thing that counts in the end. Old BSG was all about fighting. New one basically was about what makes us human. Every Star Trek fan appreciate that.

      • http://www.facebook.com/EmperorofMattopia Matthew Hickey

        The new BSG was awful. A cast full of unlikable gits, storylines that were both wandering and ridiculous, ghosts and god and the worst ending in TV history. “Grim” is not always better.

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/Matthew-Roseborough/100000714911682 Matthew Roseborough

          The new BSG was amazing, even until the end. I love Science Fiction, new ideas and fanstasy, but without characters to love its all pointless. Characters make a story, not science plotline.

          • http://www.facebook.com/stephen.suggs Stephen Darryl Suggs

            New BSG was effing brilliant. The characters may not have been likeable, but there was a desperation in all of them that made you want to see where they turned up next, even the Cyclons. And coming from an atheist, if you didn’t see that ending coming, you had to have been deaf and blind.

            And if your non-Trekkie friends liked new Trek, then bully for Abrams, since the point was to lure in the casual moviegoer.

    • http://www.facebook.com/derek.elliott.798 Derek Elliott

      As I stated in my above comment

      “Is that a Battlestar Galactica VIPER jet behind him??”

      Why is that when this is about star trek

    • Captain_Sakonna

      “… even my non-trek friends like the new movies.” IMO that is not necessarily a good thing. JJ is making Star Trek appeal to a broader audience by playing up the action and letting some of the things that made Star Trek special get lost along the way. The original Star Trek series had low ratings and was never intended to appeal to as many people as possible … it was made to showcase a philosophy and explore difficult issues.

  • http://www.facebook.com/rian.mcmurtry Rian McMurtry

    Something Abrams has no part in. Destroy one of the founding worlds of the Federation? Jump a cadet about to be thrown out of the academy straight to captain? Return to the mainline continuity, take it 30-50 years into the future, and give us the new Enterprise.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Cameron-Ladd/521610987 Cameron Ladd

    I don’t think that Abrams really FEELS Star Trek – he’s more a Star Wars guy, which is great now that he’ll helm a movie in that franchise. But this upcoming Trek looks like The Dark Knight as directed by Roland Emmerich.

    And ST does work best as a series, with one nitpick: characters have had major, life-altering things happen to them, and next week they’re completely unaffected, and back to their old selves. In two consecutive episodes, The Alternative Factor and The City on the Edge of Forever (candidates for THE worst, and THE best respectively?), Kirk has to make a gut-wrenching, monumental decision – then next week he’s his usual, green-babe seducing self. My mind would snap and they’d have to throw me in that asylum in that Season 3 ep.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000054131007 Adam Brown

      Perfect point, completely agree. “Purists” I think forget that.

    • John

      He;s making an action-adventure movie that happens to be star trek themed. That’s fine. But NONE of the movies — perhaps Wrath of Khan being the only exception— were ever up to the same standards as the tv series. Trek deals with heavy themes and most of the show was talking. That holds particularly true for TNG/DS9. You can’t really have a space adventure with talking. I mean, look what happened to the TNG movies. Insurrection, Nemesis, and Generations were just godawful. First Contact was very similar to what Abrams is doing. I won’t even discuss how Picard was totally out of character during that entire movie. All the plot holes and incomprehensible choices which were made. If you read the first draft of the film it was 1000% better than what we ended up with.

    • Captain_Sakonna

      The Original Series episodes weren’t supposed to have any sort of continuity. If you pay attention to the stardates, it appears that quite a bit of time passed between the events in “The Alternative Factor” and “The City on the Edge of Forever.” Not that the writers used any sort of precision when picking stardates … they weren’t intended to be consistent from one episode to the next … but my point is, each STO episode is meant to be a stand-alone story culled from the Enterprise’s five-year mission, and there is a lot of intervening material left out. Maybe Kirk DID go through a period of doom and gloom after the choice he made in The Alternative Factor, but we aren’t shown that part.

    • http://www.facebook.com/eaglescout1998 Anthony Bertorelli

      There were a few episodes of “Deep Space Nine” that dealt with O’Brien’s implanted memories of being in prison.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=537648678 Josh Weide

    I agree completely, and have been espousing these exact same sentiments (where tolerated) for quite some time. The TNG stories were deeply philosophical, human, and worthwhile. In fact I even have a (frankly outstanding) new ST series pitch brewing, but am unsure where to take it. I’m not a showbiz insider so any help with this would be great. (Reach me at facebook.com/josh.weide.3 ) The JJ Abrams brand of ST is regrettable, and hopefully a dead-end path. (Abrams is the new Star Wars director anyway, a project better suited to his style, so hopefully that ends his Trek days.) Let’s get back to a Gene Roddenberry-type vision of Star Trek that is about story and character, not these action-packed shoot-em-ups.

  • http://www.facebook.com/captkozmo Rick DeMott

    I’ve always wanted to see a Klingon based series. You know, from their prospective

    • JT

      Agreed. People have been clamoring for this for awhile. You could set it up so that you had one human character, maybe as part of an exchange program like Riker did during TNG, so he’d be our window into the world. But otherwise the thing should be set on a Klingon Bird of Prey on patrol. Would be brilliant.

      • Jesus: version buddha 3.9

        I’d be very down for a short three or four season Klingon series, each season holding seven to ten episodes. There’d be room for some great Klingon battle campaigns in that format, and you wouldn’t have the pressure of having to fill 200 episodes, ending up falling back on rituals – I agree, that would get old. They should just greenlight Michael Dorn’s pitch.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Rob-Kennedy/100000618270776 Rob Kennedy

      If a Klingon series ran for 7 seasons, with an average of 26 episodes each…that’s an opportunity for 182 new Klingon rituals that haven’t already been done to death! Yay! Of course, that’s if they only cover one each episode. They could easily push that to 300 by doubling up.

      The last thing I want to see is a series based on the ritual-inundated society of Klingons. I used to think the Mimbari from Babylon 5 were bad in this respect, but Klingons took the cake. It’s a miracle they even had time to get out into space with all of the rituals they’d have to go through on a daily basis.

      Klingons looked interesting back when they were bad guys. That’s because they made living the life of a career warrior look exciting and fun. TNG and DS9 made it look dry, boring and anything BUT fun.

  • http://www.facebook.com/chuck.hunnefield Chuck Hunnefield

    A GREAT example (and there are many, but this is my favorite one), is the STNG episode ‘Symbiosis’. Everything about that episode was brilliant, and the ending… Wow. Excellent! I think Ron has a good point here.

  • http://www.facebook.com/JaimeWulf Dale Allen Platt

    A problem I see with a new ST series is the fact that one can reasonably assume that the Movie Actors won’t reprise their roles for a TV show…

    Unless one builds up a completely new thing like the “Colonization” idea which does not include original cast members it will most likely flop since those who saw the Movies and loved them will be disappointed not to see those actors again…
    A new series with new characters would have a difficult time getting started but might work…

    The Original ST movies worked cause the Original Cast were in them from the TV shows, the Reboot worked because we restarted from a timeline before the TV show and diverging off from the Original timeline as well… Note: Leonard Nimoy’s appearance i think made a great deal of difference in making it work also…

    That formula would have to be duplicated again…

    Which won’t be an easy thing…

  • Jesus: version buddha 3.9

    It would be way too expensive to get the cast of the movies in a new series. I think a reboot tv show could go well though – If it were not done by the Bad Robot company. I don’t want to see Trek done like Lost or Fringe, no offense to those quality shows. It’s gotta be a new direction, but a mainstream (and hopefully still interesting) direction. Klingons, Starfleet Academy, the colonization of a planet, all of this won’t work as a long-term series (although I would love to see all three of these done in a Netflix-type mini-series or short series format). It’s gotta be a reboot of TOS w a differnent cast from the movies, or set between TOS and TNG, or set after Voyager (be this five years, thirty years, or 500 years after VOY). Each of these projects still have inherent risks. And unfortunately, the safest bet instead of the most interesting gamble will be taken by the studios.

  • Nathan000000

    This article is so correct when it says that “at its best, Roddenberry’s creation has always been about ideas and difficult choices.” I think that that is why, of the movies, “First Contact” was one of the best. Rather than just action, it spent a lot of time exploring the notion of how free will changes the nature of relationships. The Borg Queen had united with billions of creatures’ minds and felt their thoughts, but she had never experienced someone choosing to have that union. It’s a qualitatively different experience, which she was so eager to have that she risked her own plans and safety. That little philosophical exploration is what made that one of the best movies—the same ingredient that made the TV programs so good.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Paul-Emerson/100002485258920 Paul Emerson

    As long as Ron Moore has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with a New Trek series, I’m good. He butchered, in the extreme, the new Battlestar Galactica. Really, the first season and a half was very very good, but after the middle of the second season, it turned into a sex-laced murder-dramatic sack of garbage, and I wouldn’t let Moore mow my lawn were I the director of a Star Trek series, let alone write or work on it.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Matthew-Roseborough/100000714911682 Matthew Roseborough

      The pilot and s1 were my overall fav’s of BSG – Ron didn’t hurt BSG. SYFY EXECS did. They were the ones forcing ‘Stand-alone’ episodes. Science Fiction is awesome, but without characters to fall in love with its pointless.

  • http://www.facebook.com/derek.elliott.798 Derek Elliott

    Is that a Battlestar Galactica VIPER jet behind him??

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Matthew-Roseborough/100000714911682 Matthew Roseborough

      Yes. Its a stock picture for Ron Moore.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000054131007 Adam Brown

    I agree with what you think star trek really is, but completly disagree with the fact that the big screen does not have that “morality of the week” feeling. The newer star trek movie was an extrapolation of the morality test behind the Kobayashi Maru, what you have to do what it takes to get something done, not necessarily play by the rules, a feature at the heart of Captain Kirk. The good qualities from “looking beofre you leap” which was a common theme in the earlier episodes with Kirk. Personally, I think this movie had more of a moral feeling then a lot of the television episodes.

    Yes, the newer movies have a lot of flare, and “purest” may not like that. But at its heart, the new Star Trek movies are a better morality play then anything that could touch the series. Why, because they have more time to play with it.

    Star Trek is better now then it ever was, and will continue to get better. And this is coming from a life long fan who has watched every episdoes I don’t know how many time.

    • Sleeper99999

      Sorry, but you like the 2009 movie better than any other version? That sounds crazy. The idea that the stupid way the reboot handled the Kobayashi Maru story – with a bored, arrogant Kirk who learned nothing and achieved nothing in the way he did it – better than it was done in WRATH OF KHAN, is bizarre in the extreme.

  • http://twitter.com/StoicLion1973 StoicLion

    I would like to see a new Star Trek animated series instead of live action. This way, it can contain cross-over stories featuring the casts of the various iterations of ST, or at least some. Like a ENT story continuing on into TOS-era.

  • http://www.facebook.com/pacatak Jacob Packer

    I would love a new trek series. The new movies are ok, but give me a show that is true scifi, cool stories. I’ve been thinking, why not do a Trek Series with no set cast. It could be set in the TNG/DS9/VOY era, but be kinda like twilight zone, in the sense that it tells different stories each week, with different characters, ships, yada yada yada. They have a rich world, one week could be a klingon ship, the next a federation out post, the next ferengi. Plenty of chances for guest stars, have worf, or troi or whoever come on, just for a few episodes, and they could do arcs, but the main thing woudl be adventures in space, with new charactesr, that you had no idea if they’d live or die past the episode. The Trek univeirse is rich, this way they coudl mine it all.

  • http://www.facebook.com/dane.yoshida Dane Yoshida

    I’d like to see a series that connects with the future shaped in All Good Things (TNG), The Visitor(DS9), and Endgame (Voyager). Maybe tweek the uniform a bit but that time period would be wonderful.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Matthew-Roseborough/100000714911682 Matthew Roseborough

      Word. And throw in Admiral Janeway every now and then. :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/steve.shinny Steve Shinny

    You know I did not think anyone could do a better job of killing Trek than those who created Enterprise, the whole temporal cold war thing was junk, but J J Abrams has gone them one better, destroy Vulcan?? The only thing he could do to even come close to saving the franchise is to restore the original timeline. But I forget, Star Trek is about the present and the renegade Romulan represents North Korea or radical Islamic terrorists…

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Lee-Mc-Donald/1205872108 Lee Mc Donald

    I would like to see a new TV series. It doesn’t have to go far into the future to be successful. Ron Moore would be great in the role of senior executive producer.

    I really wish J.J. hadn’t destroyed 43 years of history and continuity to create his abomination. Proof that he didn’t have to is the series of books that have come out, showing that, with just a little thought, Star Trek can continue, successfully, without being “recreated”.

  • http://twitter.com/ImTheMime DD

    Totally agree – But the 1st Movie “The Motion Picture” was the only good one, and true science fiction.

  • stickydoja

    I thought I was the only one to think like that about a no cast series would be cool

  • Macranthunter

    The B-Story killed Star Trek. The strongest episodes – bar none – were about a single character in real trouble. Teleological or otherwise. The B-Story is filler for a weak script. It is only acceptable when , by the end of the episode, – SURPRISE! – there IS no B-story.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Matthew-Roseborough/100000714911682 Matthew Roseborough

      Exactly. Give me Scifi and Fantasy, but give it to me with a real character driven plot. Science Fiction without characters is just pointless.

  • pr83

    Obviously if there were to be a new Trek TV series, the actors from the movies wouldn’t return for it. You might get an occasional cameo from one or the other but that’d be it. If said new series was to take place in the ‘Abramsverse’, which would be logical (why win a load of new fans with this new take on Star Trek, then give them a series based on the old continuity?), the only way to do it would be to base the show on another Starfleet ship in the same timeframe as the movies, or to set it further on in the future, on a later Enterprise.

    The problem with setting it later would be a) The look of the show – how do you make it look more futuristic than the Kirk-era? The new movies already look more hi-tech than the ‘Roddenberryverse’ 24th Century, and b) Continuity. With the movies still ongoing, what if they make a fundamental change to the universe your show is set in? If you have a war with the Klingons in your show, for example, but movie no.3 wipes the Klingon empire from the face of the galaxy, you have a problem.

    The only way a TV series would work would be to set it on a different ship within the fleet, concurrently with the movies.

    As for Michael Dorn’s ‘Captain Worf’ idea, just no. I like Worf, but after 11 seasons of TV and 4 movies, his story is done. I literally cannot handle any more Worf. Perhaps a ‘Titan’ series with Riker as captain, but Frakes looks so old now. If it were to stick with the classic universe, I like Brian McMurty’s suggestion – shift the timeline forward and give us a new Enterprise with a new crew. ‘The Next Next Generation’.

  • Newstar

    I had the same sentiment, that Trek is better on the whole as a TV series, to give a chance to really get to know the characters. two hours every few years just isn’t enough time. Thank goodness for the comics, they help. I disagree with some of Ron’s comments though. The Trek series he worked on did indeed have ensemble casts, but that was part of what made them inferior to TOS. Classic trek featured Kirk, Spock, and McCoy, giving us stronger hero figures and more development while still having time for a good plot. I was disgusted with the move to soap opera vignettes in later series. By focusing on just three the show brought a different atmosphere that is better represented in the new reboot.

  • John Taylor

    They should consider redoing the animated series.